Michael Berke

Interviewed by Charlotte Dubin

October 3, 2013

Max M. Fisher Federation Building, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Michael Berke
Video 01:14:56


In this interview, Michael Berke speaks about his childhood growing up as a lifelong Detroiter. Berke talks about his years spent as a special education teacher and then his move into working for the Jewish community as the executive director of Hillel Day School and at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

When asked about his college years, Berke mentions being a part of Habonim and AZA. He talks about how important he believes informal Jewish education is and speaks fondly about his years spent at Camp Kvutza. He mentions BBYO and Camp Tamarack both as being great places for informal education.  He talks about the Jewish community at Wayne State University.

From here, Berke goes a little more into his work with the Hillel Day School and then leading into his position as Vice President of Financial Resource Development, as well as his relationship with Sol Drachler. Berke then speaks about the Detroit Jewish community and the challenges of the current and next generations.

Berke talks about his involvement with Hebrew Free Loan as president.  He relates some success stories of the Hebrew Free Loan.  He mentions the climate of Federation during the Gulf War as well as the move of the Federation from Downtown.  This leads into the changes over the years regarding the Jewish Community Center.

Berke then speaks about his experiences and involvement with the Michigan Miracle Mission, as well as Partnership 2000 and Project Renewal.  He discusses the relationship between American Jews and Israelis.

When asked about what gives him the most satisfaction, Berke talks about the relationships he has made and maintained over the years. He mentions the archives and his involvement and interests with it. Finally, he mentions his family, including those in Israel.

History of Narrator

Michael Berke, was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He started his career as a special education teacher and then decided he wanted to pursue Jewish communal service. After working at the Jewish Federation for several years, he became Executive Director for Hillel Day School.

After four years, Berke returned to Federation, where he spent the next 23 years in several positions, including executive director. After leaving Federation, Berke began a consulting firm for not-for-profit organizations and was in business for 16 years. His philanthropy work continued, and he served as President of Hebrew Free Loan, Hillel of Metro Detroit, and chair of the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives, among other volunteer activities.


Important Subjects

  • Camp Kvutza
  • Camp Tamarack
  • Habonim
  • Hebrew Free Loan Association
  • Hillel Day School
  • Hillel of Metro Detroit
  • Jewish Community Center
  • Jewish Education
  • Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives
  • Michigan Miracle Mission
  • Partnership 2000
  • Project Renewal

Important Names

  • Bob Naftaly
  • David Hermelin
  • Jane Sherman
  • Joel Tauber
  • Larry Jackier
  • Robert Aronson
  • Sol Drachler
  • Stanley Frankel

Credit as: Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives. Michael Berke Oral History Interview, October 3, 2013.